Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The Bucket List 2015 (Part Four)

I was in university when The X-Files came along in the early 90s, and it hit all my sweet spots. A heady mix of horror, government conspiracies, and science fiction, it might have burst fully formed from my ID instead of the pen of Chris Carter. This was the early days of the internet, where like-minded weirdos traded dodgy stories about Area 51 in disreputable Usenet groups, when a lot of information was still tantalizingly out of reach of the average university student with a taste for strangeness. There really was a sense that The Truth was out there, somewhere, and the difficulty tracking down anything solid outside of sensational magazines and late-night syndicated shows about the unknown - well, who's to say it wasn't a conspiracy?

It was into this era that one of the great modern roleplaying supplements was released, the phenomenal DELTA GREEN. It cashed in on X-Files era interest in UFOs (I had been hooked since In Search Of... and Steven Spielberg in the 1970s) and used them as a gloss for a comprehensive modern-era take on Cthulhu Mythos investigations.

Now DELTA GREEN is back, with its own roleplaying game system and an all-star crew of writers to Kickstart the post-War on Terror incarnation of everyone's favourite modern Mythos hunters. You'd think I might be super eager to play that new DG game (and I am), but the game I'm talking about today is not the official, on the record DG that they want you to play. It's something else entirely. Me even talking to you about it could be called treason.

I had a conversation at one point with my friend Rob about DG, and we both agreed that the aliens were our favourite part of the original game. We were both disappointed that they have apparently been stripped out of the new incarnation of the game, although that does make sense. The 1990s and its interest in weird alien conspiracies has waned, and evolved into a bleaker modern world where the government does things right out in the open that Spooky Mulder couldn't imagine. We no longer believe the government is concealing wondrous secrets, only bloody hands.

My DELTA GREEN includes the aliens, though. And, having never had the satisfaction of running a long DG campaign that featured the aliens (the one adventure I did run turned into a bloodbath that nearly killed the whole party), I want 'em.

Which brings me to the second problem. My Better Half does not like the Cthulhu Mythos, Sam-I-Am. She does not like them one little bit. So my DG game needs to concentrate on stripping out the Lovecraft pastiche stuff, and make itself more of a straight-up alien invasion story. Fortunately, I have a hook that works, borrowed nearly wholesale from a short-lived television show called Threshold. I know, you don't know what I'm talking about. Never mind, it had a great pilot that set very high stakes, followed by a series that backed away from those stakes as fast as possible.

Yeah, Threshold was lousy. But Peter Dinklage was in it!
In short, the stakes were "it's too late - the aliens are already here, EVERYWHERE, and the invasion has begun." It may not be Lovecraft bleak, but still pretty damn bleak.

My DG game uses that premise, and hangs it on a story frame that I call "Now and Then". Basically, part of the game will be set in the present, modern world, where the players are investigators battling an unseen alien invasion. The second half of the game is set in the future, where the aliens have taken over and things are really bad. The question of the campaign is, of course, how do we get from Then to Now, and how do the characters change in that arc? It's the same kind of thing I did with my TIANXIA game, and it can be very satisfying if you stick the landing.

I gotta go. I hear unmarked black sedans pulling up in front of my house.

They've found me. 


  1. We loved the pilot. And Peter Dinklage, who is always awesome despite whatever else is happening around him, and may have been adequate justification for Threshold to exist all by himself.